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Press Release: Leon Levy Center for Biography Announces 2010-2011 Fellowships

The Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center has announced its 2010-2011 Biography Fellows. Established by a generous gift from the Leon Levy Foundation in 2006, the Center offers annual fellowships to writers working in the genre.

The 2010-2011 Biography Fellows are: Jed Perl, art critic for The New Republic and author of New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century, among other books, who is working on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder, to be published by Knopf; Claudia Roth Pierpont, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World, who is working on a cultural history of 20th-century New York in the form of juxtaposed biographies of, among others, Alfred Barr, George Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein, and W. H. Auden; Michael Massing, author of The Fix and Now They Tell Us: American Press and Iraq, who is working on his biography of Luther and Erasmus, to be published by HarperCollins;and CUNY Fellow Mitchell Cohen, professor of political science at Baruch College and former co-editor of Dissent Magazine, who is writing a political biography of composer Richard Wagner.

During the academic year-in-residence, Leon Levy Biography Fellows participate in a seminar, attend public programs offered by the Leon Levy Center, and partake in the dynamic intellectual community of the Graduate Center. Each of the four fellowships (one is earmarked for a CUNY faculty member) comes with writing space, full access to CUNY research facilities, and a stipend of $60,000. The Fellows devote their residency to their work in progress and are precluded from teaching or other full-time employment during the fellowship.    

The Leon Levy Center for Biography aims to raise the profile of biography within the academy and cultivate lively interdisciplinary discussion about the craft of biography in our time. Applications are thus welcome from established and emerging biographers, writers moving to biography from other genres, and artists working on biography in film and other media. All applications were read by several screening committees that identified 15 fellowship finalists. A selection panel of distinguished biographers, writers, and critics then met to choose the new group of Fellows.

2010-2011 Fellows:

Jed Perl is the art critic for The New Republic and the author of a number of books, including New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century, Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World, and Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis. He is a visiting professor in the Liberal Studies Program at The New School and is currently working on the first full-length biography of Alexander Calder, to be published by Knopf.

Claudia Roth Pierpont is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she has written some three dozen essays ranging in subject from Nietzsche to Mae West to contemporary Arabic fiction. A collection of her essays on women writers, Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World, was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. At the Leon Levy Center, she will be working on a cultural history of 20th-century New York in the form of juxtaposed biographies, considering six individuals and four partnerships -- including Alfred Barr at the Museum of Modern Art, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein at New York City Ballet, and W. H. Auden -- whose overlapping ideals, both moral and aesthetic, helped to make the city the cultural center of the world.

Michael Massing is the author of The Fix, a critical study of the U.S. war on drugs, and Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, and a co-founder of the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 1992, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. While at the Leon Levy Center, he’ll be working on his biography of Luther and Erasmus, to be published by HarperCollins.

CUNY Fellow Mitchell Cohen is professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center. He was co-editor of Dissent Magazine from 1991-2009 and now serves on its editorial board and that of Jewish Social Studies. While at the center he will be writing a political biography of Richard Wagner, especially examining the controversial composer in his times and the roles of anarchism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism in his operas. Cohen’s previous books include The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Zion and State, and, as co-editor, Princeton Readings in Political Thought. His articles have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, Common Knowledge, and Musik und Asthetik.

The Leon Levy Center for Biography

Established with a generous gift from the Leon Levy Foundation (www.leonlevyfoundation.org), the Leon Levy Center for Biography aims to identify, support, and foster excellence and innovation in biography. It seeks to build connections between independent and university-affiliated biographers working across disciplines, to raise the profile of biography within the academy, and to cultivate lively interdisciplinary discussion about the craft of biography in our time. Envisioned as a hub for writers, scholars, students, and readers of the genre, it hosts an annual conference, an annual lecture, and a fellowship competition. The Leon Levy Center is currently under the leadership of distinguished author Brenda Wineapple, as Director. Caitlin

Delohery is the Center's Project Coordinator, and David Nasaw, the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the Graduate Center, serves as Chair of the Center’s Advisory Board.

The Graduate Center

The Graduate Center is the primary doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). The school offers more than 30 doctoral programs, as well as a number of master's programs. The Graduate Center is also home to more than 30 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes and offers an extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at www.gc.cuny.edu.

The Leon Levy Foundation

The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the estate of Leon Levy. The Foundation endeavors to continue his philanthropic legacy and to build on his vision, encouraging and supporting excellence in six broad areas: Understanding the Ancient World; Arts and Humanities; Preservation of Nature and Gardens; Brain Research and Science; Human Rights; and Jewish Culture.

Submitted on: APR 1, 2010

Category: Leon Levy Center for Biography, Press Room